By Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer 

During 2007 and 2008, giant financial institutions were obliterated, the net worth of most Americans collapsed, and most of the world’s economies were brought to their knees.

At the same time, this has been an era of radical economic inequality, at levels not seen since 1929. Over the last three decades, an unprecedented consolidation and concentration of earning power and wealth has made the top 1 percent of Americans immensely richer while middleclass Americans have been increasingly impoverished.

To most Americans and certainly most economists and policymakers, these two phenomena seem unrelated. In fact, traditional economic theory and contemporary American economic policy does not seem to admit the possibility that they are connected in any way.

And yet they are—deeply. We aim to show that a modern understanding of economies as complex, adaptive, interconnected systems forces us to conclude that radical inequality and radical economic dislocation are causally linked: one brings and amplifies the other.

If we want a high-growth society with broadly shared prosperity, and if we want to avoid dislocations like the one we have just gone through, we need to change our theory of action foundationally. We need to stop thinking about the economy as a perfect, self-correcting machine and start thinking of it as a garden.

Traditional economic theory is rooted in a 19th- and 20th-century understanding of science and mathematics. At the simplest level, traditional theory assumes economies are linear systems filled with rational actors who seek to optimize their situation. Outputs reflect a sum of inputs, the system is closed, and if big change comes it comes as an external shock. The system’s default state is equilibrium. The prevailing metaphor is a machine.

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Original Source: Evonomics